As parents we want to be teachers for our children and ideally be able to stand by the assertion, “You can talk to me about anything.” We hope to guide them as best we can with morals, kindness and support. But there are subjects that may start to feel uncomfortable or dangerous nowadays that may blur the lines of our best parenting intentions. RMD breaks down those taboo topics with advice on how best to handle some sticky topics.
Sex is a biggie. It’s probably the topic most parents will admit is the toughest to tackle. In providing good, reliable advice and information to our kids about sexuality, we often have to untangle how this information was passed along to us. Previous generations aren’t known for having the best track record for teaching their kids even the basics about the birds and the bees. The fact is, kids are going to learn about it one way or another soon enough, so it’s our job as parents to provide truthful, honest and fact based answers to even their most cringe inducing questions. In my home, we have an open dialogue policy and the kids know they can ask me any question. You may be shocked to hear some of the things they have overheard, but better you to help them set the facts straight than from playground misinformation and confusion.
Drugs, booze and cigarettes. This needs to be an ongoing and open dialogue. Provide your kids with the basic information on what each substance is and the potential dangers. Talk to them about why do you think somebody would want to get high or drunk. Offer hypothetical situations: what would you do if?…Let them know you can be a safe place for non judgement but also be very clear with your own boundaries and expectations for them to be safe.Start the dialogue early. Let them talk to you openly about what kids their age are talking about and know that they won’t get in trouble for sharing with you.
God and Religion. This is obviously very personal to each family’s belief system. But it is all in the perspective. You may have certain religious beliefs that you want to share with your children, but give them room to ask philosophical questions about the mysteries of the universe. Ponder it together. Sometimes the wondering about the unknown together may open your mind in new and wonderful ways too. Ask them what they think God is. Give them room to explore and form their own sense of faith and trust in God by exploring these complex and ultimate questions together. Allow for non-judgement or labeling other religions right or wrong with the respect that there is one truth with many paths.
Guns and violence are on everyone’s minds these days for obvious reasons. Depending on our childs age, it is crucial that we find an appropriate way to handle their questions about what is going on in our collective consciousness about guns and violence in America. Talk to them about common sense safety. Ask them questions? What would you do if a kid brought out his parents gun on a playdate? Give them space to express their fears and anxieties. Ask them about what they think. Give them a voice in their own destiny. Also help them understand that they can have a voice for policy change and common sense gun laws.
What were you like as a kid? Oh boy, this is a tricky one. When my kids were younger, they loved to hear stories about naughty things I had done when I was a kid. They would get a giggle about hearing that Mommy too made mistakes and did naughty things. That question takes a slightly more ominous turn as we get into the teen years. Without getting into too much specificity, there is a way to share, that you too, made mistakes at times. That there were things that you had to learn the hard way, and you hope that they won’t have to. You don’t have to confess your sins and expose all your dirty secrets to be real and authentic about the fact that you aren’t perfect.. It may give your kid some relief in recognizing that your voice comes from experience and is without hypocrisy.